The NRL might not have the warchest that the AFL does, or the massive junior base that Soccer has in the West – but this hasn’t stopped the NRL and their army of volunteers stepping up to the fight for Sydneys Greater West.
All codes know that Western Sydney is a huge growth area, with a population in excess of 2 million and rising fast – it’s ripe for sporting codes to lock up the juniors and set up the code for a strong future.
The AFL made their intentions brutally clear, with heavyweight Kevin Sheedy to head up their new franchise and the A-League also starting up a base there to capitalise on their already strong junior base.
The problem for the A-League and soccer in general in this country, is that it rarely converts junior players to fans or supporters.
But the NRL, who has traditional Western Sydney wrapped up in terms of fans – is not sitting back and watching, as they employ leading players in the coming weeks to perform a grassgroots blitz.
Led by Wayne Bennett who will conduct a coaching clinic out of Blacktown with the Allstars team, then followed closely by 4 Western Clubs joining forces; the Eels, Wests Tigers, Bulldogs and Penrith who will allow their top players to combine for coaching clinics in Windsor, Campbelltown, Parramatta and Belmore.
Only 2 years ago, discussions between former Parramatta boss Denis Fitzgerald and Penrith CEO Mick Leary – led to the creation of the Western Sydney Rugby League academy, a development clinic based out of CUA Stadium and involving the likes of Brad Fittler working with promising juniors.
It’s initiatives like this, combined with the moves recently of Western Sydney clubs; Penrith, Parramatta, Wests and Bulldogs who are putting rivalries aside to send their best players together to ensure Sydneys Greater West remains Rugby League heartland.